Whether you are planning your first ultra or have several under your belt (belt buckle that is), whenever you start adding on more mileage you need to make sure that your body is adequately prepared to take on the additional stresses running places on the body.
What do we mean by this? Strength training!
Many runners neglect strengthening the muscles they use when running. And not only those muscles, but the opposing muscles too. In order to prevent injury and run at your best, you need to ensure that your body is strong and your training plan is well balanced.
Here are 5 simple exercises you can incorporate into your routine today to ensure that you are ready to train and perform at your best! Do as many as 3 sets of each exercise everyday.
1. Single leg squats: This exercise works on balance, inner quad strength and helps to prevent muscle imbalances between legs. Start in a standing position and lift your left leg off the ground. You can also stand on a step, bench (or bucket). Bend your right knee and sit back into your hips (like you are going to sit in a chair) ensuring that your knee doesn’t buckle in- it should track over your 2nd toe.
As you bend, push your butt back, weight into your heels and keep your chest up- don’t look down. Bend to 45-90 degree angle and then straighten your leg back to starting position. Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.
2. Leg lifts: Have you ever seen a runner who seems to just shuffle their feet along? You might even hear their feet scraping against the ground as they raise their legs with minimum effort to take the next step. Or maybe this is you!
You need strong hip flexors (translation= front of your thighs) to run strongly and with proper form. Starting in a standing position (hold onto something if you need to for balance), lift one leg straight up as high as you can without using momentum (kicking it up) or without your knee bending. Keep your hips squared, core tight and back flat (don’t arch your back as you lift). Repeat 15-20 times on one side and then repeat on the other side.
3. Calf raises: Unless you live in Kansas, I am guessing that there are at the very least some small hills where you run. You need strong calf muscles to help you get up those hills! Do 15-20 reps.
4. Tib anterior raise: Raise your toes towards your shins, 15-20 reps. This exercise in particular can help to prevent shin splints and strengthen the muscles responsible for proper placement upon foot strike.
5. Plank: Your “core” (abdominal and pelvic muscles) is your body’s powerhouse. Literally. Your core stabilizes your pelvis, legs and trunk and all movements start by engagement of the core. Hold a plank on your hands for 15-60 seconds and then on your forearms for 15-60 seconds without a break. *Level 1= Plank on your knees, Level 2= plank on your toes. Make sure that your upper back is flat and lower back is not arched too much.
Need a little more guidance?
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